Theophylline

What does this medicine do?

Theophylline is a long-term control medicine (controller) that relaxes the smooth muscles around the airways. This causes the airways to open and makes it easier for air to flow in and out of the lungs. This medicines is not the first choice to treat asthma. It may be used along with other medicines if needed.

How is it taken?

Theophylline is taken by mouth as a syrup, tablet, or capsule. Some preparations release theophylline rapidly. Others release the medicine slowly over a long period of time. For this reason, the tablets or capsules should not be chewed or crushed.

What is the usual dose?

The dose of theophylline is different for each person. Some medicines and conditions may affect the way theophylline affects your child. The right dose is based on your child's weight, the type of medicine, how often your child needs to take it, how much medicine is in your child's blood, and how well your child responds to the medicine. If your child is taking this medicine, he should have a blood test done occasionally to check how much of the medicine is in his blood. High levels of this medicine in the blood can lead to serious side effects.

The theophylline medicine prescribed is _________________. Your prescribed dose is ______ mg taken every ______ hours.

What side effects can this medicine cause?

The most common side effects of theophylline are nausea, vomiting, stomachache, and diarrhea. These can also be symptoms of other childhood illnesses, so call your healthcare provider as soon as possible if they occur. Other less common side effects are headache, irritability, restlessness, trouble sleeping, muscle twitching, seizures, and a fast, pounding heartbeat. If your child develops any side effects, STOP THE MEDICINE and call your healthcare provider right away.

What special instructions should be followed?

  • An overdose of theophylline is dangerous. It is important to take this medicine at the times prescribed. If you are not sure if a dose was taken, do not give your child extra doses.
  • Theophylline medicines are different from one brand to another. Do not change brands without first checking with your healthcare provider.
  • Be sure to read any special instructions that come with the medicine.
  • Your child's usual dose of theophylline may cause dangerous side effects if your child has a viral infection with a high fever (over 102°F, or 38.9°C). Call your healthcare provider if your child has a high fever.
  • Your child may have side effects if he is taking other medicines such as cimetidine (Tagamet), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), erythromycin (Pediazole, E.E.S.), or clarithromycin (Biaxin). Call your healthcare provider if your child is taking any of these medicines.

Remember, stop giving your child theophylline if he develops any side effects and CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER.

Written by the Asthma Task Force at The Children's Hospital, Denver.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2007-10-22
Last reviewed: 2008-12-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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